FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Afghanistan’s reasons for optimism
Posted:Apr 2, 2011
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Nearly two-thirds of Americans think the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. Behind this figure is a prevalent pessimism that the war is unwinnable.

Curiously, most Afghans have a very different view. In fact, Afghans in general are much more optimistic about their future than we Americans are about ours. Fully 59 percent of Afghans think their country is moving in the right direction, the most recent published poll found in November, vs. 28 percent of Americans who feel that way now about the United States. Asked a version of Ronald Reagan’s classic question — Are you better off today than five years ago? — 63 percent of Afghans say yes. In America, consumer confidence has edged up in recent months but is still down 40 points since 2007.

Americans picture Afghan President Hamid Karzai as illegitimate, inept and corrupt; believe that the surge of U.S. and NATO troops is failing; and see Afghan forces as graft-ridden incompetents.

Yet Karzai’s government enjoys a 62 percent approval rating in his country, while he personally was viewed positively by 82 percent of his compatriots in November.

Afghan support for American forces had fallen a bit over the past year but was still at 62 percent, much better than the 31 percent of Americans who support troop commitment. The Taliban, by contrast, was viewed unfavorably by nine in 10 Afghans — while eight of 10 Afghans expressed confidence in the Afghan National Army.

How to explain this surprising (to Americans) optimism on the part of the Afghan population? One merely has to look at some of the underlying realities.

Since 2001, when U.S. troops overthrew the Taliban, Afghanistan’s gross domestic product has tripled. This puts Afghanistan on a par with China in its double-digit economic growth rate, though from a much lower base.

In 2001 there were 1 million Afghan children in school — almost all boys. This year more than 8 million children will attend school — a third of them girls. Afghanistan’s dismal literacy rate will triple over the next decade as these children complete their education.

Now, 80 percent of Afghans have access to basic health-care facilities, almost twice as many as in 2005. Infant mortality has dropped by a third, and adult longevity is rising.

Perhaps most remarkable, half of Afghan families now have telephones, thanks to the cellphone explosion since 2001. Almost no one had a phone a decade ago.

Polling confirms that Afghans are very troubled by official corruption, but they don’t compare their government to Switzerland’s. If they look abroad, they look at their neighbors — Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, China, Pakistan and Iran — and see systems generally far less accountable than their own. Mostly, however, they look to their own past and realize that this is the best they have had it for decades and that life continues to improve.

This outlook is also evident in the areas where NATO and Afghan forces have been most active. In Helmand Province, the surge’s epicenter, killings attributed to the Taliban dropped by half between January 2009 and November 2010.

As violence declined in Helmand, normalcy began returning and markets reopened. Three in five residents reported good economic opportunities in November; only one in five did before the surge.

Afghans are also very concerned about still-rising violence, but they put that in context. In March, the United Nations announced that 2,700 Afghan civilians were killed last year, most by insurgents. That annual figure would have been a bad week in Iraq back in 2006. It would be a bad month in Mexico today.

Recent levels of violence do not compare to the levels that Afghans experienced in the 1980s and ’90s. War with the Russians and then among Afghans drove vast numbers of citizens out of the country. The Afghan refugee flow is still on balance back into the country.

If Afghans are more optimistic about the future than Americans are, it is because they make their judgments the same way Americans do, by comparing their present circumstances to their past and projecting that trend forward. The difference is that most Afghans are better off now than in the recent past, while most Americans are not. Consequently, they are optimistic — and we are the opposite. This also helps explain the drop in American support for the war, which says a lot more about how Americans view their prospects than how the Afghans view theirs.

Craig Charney, president of Charney Research, has polled in Afghanistan since 2003. James Dobbins is director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at Rand Corp. and served as the U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2002. Article courtesy: Washington Post)

 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
The first India-China strategic dialogue is to be held on February 22, 2017. This dialogue was proposed during the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in August last year and it was propagated as a new mechanism for a more comprehensive dialogue between the two countries. 
 
read-more
The Islamic State (IS)  and its ideological affiliates  in Pakistan have claimed responsibility for this attack and threatened that this is only the beginning of such an anti-Sufi /Shia  campaign to exterminate the apostate – or ‘non-believer’ writes C Uday Bhaskar for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
spotlight image India has vital interests in the Middle East and going by the spurt in political engagements since May 2014, the region is a top priority for Prime Minister Narendra Modi writes Md. Muddassir Quamar for South Asia Monitor
 
read-more
The recent violence that took place in Nagaland against the 33 per cent reservation given to women is not only sad, but it would certainly hurt the holistic development of the entire State. The recent violence that took place in Nagaland against the 33 per cent reservation given to women is not only sad, but it would certainly
 
read-more
Society for Policy Studies in association with India Habitat Centre invites you to a lecture in the Changing Asia Series by Dr.Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President and Chief Executive, Centre for Policy Research on Asia: Hope for the Future or Prisoner of the Past?    ...
 
read-more
spotlight image Earlier this week, just after United States President Donald Trump’s top adviser on national security resigned in controversy, a European intelligence official asked a reporter the question on everyone’s mind: “I was hoping you could tell me what’s going on over there [in the US].”
 
read-more
It is high time that Taiwan differentiated its position from Beijing’s claim on South China Sea, writes Namrata Hasija for South Asia Monitor.
 
read-more
At the moment, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is able to stop the violence by pushing the Islamists to the vast Sambisa forests of the Borno State At the moment, Nigerian President Muhammad Buhari is able to stop the violence by pushing the Islamists to the vast Sambisa forests of the Borno State
 
read-more
Every year during the budget, many defence and strategic experts start clamouring for a higher budgetary allocation for the defence sector and this year was no different. The allocation of Rs 2.74 lakh crore (excluding defence pensions) is being perceived as “too less”. Every year during the budget, many defence and
 
read-more
Column-image

India remians the inflexible bête-noir for Pakistan, yet there are few books by Indian authors that have sought to interpret the prodigal neighbour in a holistic, informed and empathetic manner.

 
Column-image

The line that Mortimer Durand drew across a small map in 1893 has bled the Pashtun heart ever since. More than a century later both sides of that line remain restless. But the mystery behind what actually happened on 12 November 1893 has never ...

 
Column-image

What went wrong for the West in Afghanistan? Why couldn't a global coalition led by the world's preeminent military and economic power defeat "a bunch of farmers in plastic sandals on dirt bikes" in a conflict that outlasted b...

 
Column-image

What will be Pakistan's fate? Acts of commission or omission by itself, in/by neighbours, and superpowers far and near have led the nuclear-armed country at a strategic Asian crossroads to emerge as a serious regional and global concern whi...

 
Column-image

Some South African generals, allied with the British forces, sought segregation from the enlisted men, all blacks, after being taken prisoners of war. The surprised German commander told them firmly that they would have to share the same quarte...

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive